Tags: depression

Can My Marriage Be Saved? (part 2)


After this willingness and awareness are present, the Denver marriage counseling process cultivates true communication. It is very easy for us, as human beings, to mindlessly get out of step with each other. This is the primary reason why the old bromide that "relationships are hard work" tends to be true.





Unless we strive to communicate our ongoing, internal lives - unless we actively learn to make room for each others ongoing changes - things will naturally tend to derail and get out of balance. Regaining honest and compassionate communication takes a combination of trust, openness, and courage that many modern couples sometimes lose in the "day-to-day-ness" of their lives. As a marriage therapist in Denver, Dr. Wilson has seen many couples that have simply gotten into an unhealthy routine together. Their relationship goes on a kind of "automatic pilot," and without a conscious direction, eventually a crash of some kind takes place. Sometimes it feels more like things have become "stuck," and a gentle push or a breakthrough of some kind is needed. Either way, however, marital counseling involves learning to genuinely communicate and that is often all that is necessary for a couple to again "take flight" and learn enjoy each other.





Finally, in an ongoing way, couple counseling participants must learn to accept and make room for each other. As a relationship counselor and a marriage counselor in Denver, Dr. Wilson has found that this is the hardest thing for most couples to do. People change as time draws on; therefore patience and kindness (the foundations of acceptance) are the life blood of any long term partnership. Personalities and priorities shift, religious and political beliefs change; the couples economic and family realities may have been dramatically altered since the beginning of their relationship. Learning to be aware of who your partner really is, and then learning to genuinely communicate - these are the foundation of learning to openly accept your partner as he or she is.




Making room for someone you love to evolve and change (when that evolution is totally beyond your control) is often more vulnerable and difficult then it sounds; many people in relationships, somewhere along the line, just simply stopped making room for their partners. AMI's marriage counseling in Denver makes the couple distinctly aware of how this happened between them, and provides a solution. When couple's can master the final step of genuine acceptance, things again radically shift for the better in the relationship. It is at this point that AMI's Denver couples counseling successfully terminates.




Finally, it should be noted, that marriage counseling Denver is not a panacea; nor is relationship counseling capable of "a magic cure." As a relationship counselor and marriage therapist in Denver, Dr. Wilson has noticed that many couple's enter the counseling process with unrealistic expectations. In essence, sometimes relationships are so badly damaged that they can not be fixed. In such cases, marriage counseling in Denver can then become an enlightened, and honest realization of this fact; a process where both people find themselves again and learn to move forward as individuals. If the partnership being dissolved involves children, then making sure the dissolution happens with compassion, understanding, honesty, and patience is all the more important.

Working With Clinical Depression (part 1)


Most often people have an adversarial relationship with their depression. Once we see any hint of depression in our minds, we often become reactive and judgmental about why we are depressed. Sometimes our reactions to our depression (judging ourselves and self-medicating) often become more problematic than the depression itself.





First, it should be clear from the start, not all depression is "pathological." In fact, there are perfectly appropriate times when human beings are supposed to feel depressed. Significant psychological trauma, the loss of loved ones, and the diagnosis of a terminal illness are among the legitimate reasons that human beings become depressed. In essence, depression is a natural part of our trauma and grief processing.




Having said that, there are many people with a biological predisposition to clinical depression. For these people, depression is a reoccurring obstacle in their lives, making it tough to thrive and grow. This kind of clinical depression is called "major depression," and if left untreated, it can be quite destructive and dangerous.




Therapy does not seek to eliminate depression. As we said before, depression has its place in the pantheon of human emotions. Psychotherapy seeks to help the patient change their relationship to their depression.




Depression is almost always supported by a narrative. Like two by fours in a solid foundation, a good depression narrative upholds and supports a depressed mood. A depression narrative is also pretty easy to spot in that extreme words are used with great frequency – words like "never," "always," "all," and "nothing." In essence, while reality is actually very nuanced and relative, a depression narrative is very simple, extreme, and full of black and white thinking.




My depression narrative goes something like this:




"I am the unsung hero of an unfair universe, and despite the fact that I try hard and do the right things, I never seem to get ahead! I am always blamed when things go wrong, and I get stepped over and I’m deprived the good things in life. I deserve good things too! Basically life is rigged, so what’s the point?"




My narrative is projecting blame outside of me and onto the people, places, and things around me. This is an "angry depression." Many times, however, the depression narrative will be internal, blaming oneself for all the trouble and difficulty experienced. This is a "self-loathing depression" and it’s this type of depression that is typically associated with suicidality.

Working With Clinical Depression (part 2)


Questions to Answer:

What is your depression narrative? Do some writing about the story of your depression.
How do you judge yourself for being depressed? Do you blame yourself, or do you project blame onto others, or both?





How we internally react to our depression is also crucial. As a depression patient myself, I notice that I typically get reactive to my depressed moods. At the slightest hint of a depressed mood, I will typically tighten up and armor up. I think that depression means I am weak, that I cannot handle my life and my responsibilities – so I hate it. But my reactivity and hate (instead of helping) only fuels my depression, making it deeper and tougher to work with.




Because this is true, working with depression is typically counter-intuitive. In essence, fighting depression doesn't work. Depression will not be intimated or scared away. Getting mad at yourself and the world because you are depressed only deepens and strengthens the depression. This has the net effect of placing me at war with myself – and when that happens, I lose.




So what's a more useful reaction to depression? Let's start with an analogy: working with depression is like falling into quicksand – the more you struggle, the worse things get, and the faster you sink. On the other hand, if you can just slow down, become mindful and grounded, and place your arms and legs away from your body, then you begin to float, then you can very slowly begin to inch your way out of the quicksand.




Here is another analogy I use with my patients: working with depression is like being in a Chinese finger trap – the harder you pull, the more you panic, the worse you are trapped. Just as in the quicksand analogy, the solution lies in relaxation and acceptance of the present moment as it is. The solution lies in making friends with your depression; in making your depression an ally in your evolution. In the end, I had to make friends with my depression, I had to "invite the demon in for tea" (to borrow a Zen phrase), and only then, once I had the courage to stay and connect to my demon of depression (without adding or subtracting), only then do I have the chance to dissolve it or transform it into a more useful emotion.




Exercise:

After relaxing for a few minutes with your eyes closed, in your mind's eye, call forth your depression and instruct it to take a shape (e.g., an animal, a person, a thing, etc). What shape did it take?
If you could speak to this creature "Depression" – what would you say? If it could reply, what would depression say in return?
If you could touch your depression, what would it feel like?
If you could smell and taste your depression, what would it smell and taste like?
After doing steps 1-4, have you noticed any change in your depression? Has the depressed mood increased or decreased? Is it as solid and heavy as it was before, or have things shifted a bit somehow?




After making some room for depression, indeed after inviting it in for tea, the depression typically decreases in intensity, or is dissolved altogether. This occurs because the questions you asked of your depression – they are mindful and curious questions. They were not blaming, judging, or insisting – only curious and grounded. And in response, the depression must weaken, for you are no longer fueling it.

Can My Marriage Be Saved? (part 1)


Modern couples face a radically different world than their parents faced. Confronted with economic, family, social, and geo-political stressors that did not exist fifty years ago, modern couples must create meaning from an multi-layered, interdependent, complex, confusing, and always shifting reality.





At times one partner may react to these stressors with depression and anger. The other partner may react to these stressors with anxiety and compulsivity. This being the case, it is very difficult for modern couples to keep their psychological balance while simultaneously continuing to evolve, both as individuals and as a team.





As a marriage counselor in Denver, Dr. Wilson has noticed that couples tend to enter the process in one of three basic ways. First, some couples enter Denver couples counseling because they realize that their relationship is not as healthy as it could be. In essence, these couples are proactive in the face of their ongoing struggles and tensions. They want to continue growing together, and they begin couple counseling with this motivation.




Some couples begin Denver marriage counseling having already done some significant damage to each other, often over weeks or months. Such damage usually comes from one partner attempting to cope with feelings of dissatisfaction, helplessness, fear, or even boredom by taking drugs and alcohol, or engaging in sexual infidelity and/or economic betrayal (one partner is spending money in secret, etc). Of course, such coping mechanisms for dissatisfaction and fear have nothing to do with “feeling better,” but merely represent a deepening of basic conflict and pain. Couple counseling makes it clear that feeling better at your partner’s expense can not possibly lead to lasting satisfaction and happiness.




Finally, some couple's begin Denver couples counseling with significant and very serious quantities of damage intact from years or even decades of consistently harming each other. These couples are usually on the verge of separation or a termination of their relationship. Sometimes the damage can be transformed into a rebirth of the marriage. Sometimes the couple decides to end the marriage, in which case they have an opportunity to work towards a collaborative divorce. Many times, through such therapeutic collaboration, these couples can end their marriages with an increased sense of compassion, patience, and kindness (as opposed to cruelty, contempt, and bitterness) for each other. This not only spares friends, family, and children a tremendous amount of grief, it usually saves a great deal of money in the end as well.




No matter which couple you resemble, the process of Denver marriage counseling begins with the creation of psychological awareness. As a marriage counselor in Denver, Dr. Wilson is skilled at creating relation and awareness in his clients. Any good relationship counselor must also be able to inspire courage, for it is only with courage that genuine communication begins. An open recognition of all those things between a couple that they normally never talk about is a necessary starting place. Each member of the partnership must become willing to go to these "scary places," both with themselves and with their partner. Most couple's, even if they started out healthy and happy, somehow (with time and complacency) lose the ability to effectively maintain that co-created health and happiness. Cultivating a deep and abiding awareness about each other, and the relationship, as they actually are, is therefore the first step of couple counseling. This stage of relationship counseling builds the foundation for authentic caring and courageous intimacy.